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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts]

Nelson Newspaper Press

Nelson Newspaper Press.

The history of the newspaper press in Nelson derives a special interest from the fact that the first paper of the settlement was the pioneer newspaper of the Middle Island of New Zealand. It was named the “Nelson Examiner,” and had much influence, not only in Nelson, but throughout the whole colony. The plant for the paper was brought out from England in one of the first immigrant ships, which arrived on the 1st of February, 1842, and on the 12th of March, barely six weeks later, the first issue made its appearance in the settlement, which was then little or more than a wilderness of timber, manuka, fern and flax. The “Examiner,” which remained without opposition for fifteen years, was at first published weekly, at one shilling for a single copy, or £2 per annum. The founder was Mr. Charles Elliot, whose connection with the paper continued until it ceased publication in 1872. In the early stages of the “Examiner's” existence, there were, in the nature of things, very few advertisements; but as the population and the business of the town increased, a marked change took place in that respect, and the paper was well filled with notifications denoting a thriving and prosperous community. From the first the “Examiner” showed distinctive literary talent in its articles, and had amongst its contributors such men as Mr. Alfred Domett, Dr. Monro (afterwards Sir David), the Hon. Constantine Dillon, Mr. F. D. Bell (afterwards Sir Francis), Mr. E. W. Stafford (afterwards Sir Edward), the Hon. J. C. Richmond, Dr. Greenwood, and others. During the later days of the “Examiner's” existence, the literary control was entrusted to a number of jointeditors; but the owners experienced financial troubles, from which they were unable to recover, and the paper ceased publication after a useful life of over thirty years.

For the fifteen years during which the “Examiner” was the only newspaper published in Nelson, its policy was directed by the original land purchasers, who constituted the ruling power, and were nick-named the “Nelson Supper Party.” The policy of this party became very distasteful to the working classes, who formed what subsequently became known as the Liberal party, and were even then so strong, that when the Superintendency of the Province became vacant in 1856, they nominated Mr. J. P. Robinson as a candidate for the position; and after a keen contest the victory was won by that gentleman. Naturally enough, the need of a newspaper to advance the interests of the Liberal party became felt, and the “Colonist,” at first a bi-weekly, made its appearance on the 23rd of October, 1857. The necessary money was subscribed in the district, and Mr. William Nation (who came from Sydney for the purpose of printing the paper) was the first registered proprietor. When the paper had been in existence about six years, Mr. D. M. Luckie—whose trenchant writings attracted considerable attention— became editor and part proprietor, and the business was conducted under the style of Nation and Luckie. About the year 1867 Mr. Nation disposed of his interest to Mr. E. G. Collins; and in 1874 the paper was bought from Messrs Luckie and Collins by Messrs Bond, Finney and Co. Up to that time the “Colonist” had not advanced beyond the bi-weekly stage, but its new owners converted it into a daily morning journal. The paper has been edited for some years by Mr. T. H. Bannehr, a member of the firm of Bond, Finney, and Co., page 79 and has always given a consistent support to the Liberal party.

The “Nelson Evening Mail,” the first daily published in Nelson, began its life on the 5th of March, 1866. In his opening article in the first number the editor explained that the “Mail” had “not been started in opposition to other local journals, nor at the desire of any particular sect, or party, but mainly to support an evident requirement of the whole community.” These remarks have been more than justified by results. The “Mail,” at first a small sheet, was soon enlarged; and from time to time there have been other enlargements. The late Mr. R. Lucas founded the “Mail,” which is now conducted by his sons, Messrs A. P. and A. A. Lucas, under the style of R. Lucas and sons. For upwards of twenty years the editorial chair was filled by the late Mr. F. J. Blundell, who, upon his death in 1891, was succeeded by J. F. Dundas, who filled the position till 1895, when he resigned. The present editor is Mr. O. W. Hanby, formerly of the editorial staff of the “Sydney Daily Telegraph.” The paper is independent in New Zealand politics, and upholds as a vital principle purity of administration.

The history of the other newspapers that have at different times existed in Nelson for short periods, may be told in a few words. The “Nelson Advertiser and Family Newspaper,” started in 1860 by Mr. R. Lucas, existed for only a few months. Another shortlived publication of about the same time was named the “Intelligencer.” After the death of the “Examiner,” two attempts were made to revive it in other forms, by the publication of the “Nelson Daily Times,” and the “Morning Advertiser,” but after braving the trials of keen competition and a straightened exchequer for a year or so, the first passed away, and the second lived only a few weeks. During the eighties a weekly issue of the Nelson “Evening Mail,” under the title of the “Nelson Weekly News,” was published for a short time. The latest venture in Nelson journalism was the founding of the “Nelson Evening Star,” the first issue of which appeared on the 4th of September, 1894. It was smartly written, especially during its earlier period, but it was published for the last time on the 6th of March, 1897, The late Mr. John Kerr held, from the first, a large interest in the paper, which gave a general support to the Liberal party.

“The Nelson Colonist” (Bond, Finney and Co., proprietors), Nelson. Established 1857. P.O. Box 82. Telephone 51. Bankers, Bank of New South Wales. Offices, Waimea Street. The “Colonist,” a daily morning paper, published at Nelson, and one of the leading newspapers in the provincial district, was founded by Mr. William Nation. The present owners purchased the property in 1874, from Messrs Luckie and Collins, who had succeeded Mr. Nation. The paper contains all the current news, and is an excellent advertising medium.

Mr. William Thornton Bond , Senior Partner, is a native of Lancashire, England, and was educated at the Royal Grammar school, Lancashire. On leaving school he entered the office of the “Lancaster Guardian,” and remained there for seven years. When Mr. Bond landed at Nelson in the latter part of 1862, he went on to Marlborough, where he was employed on the “Marlborough Press.” He entered the “Colonist” office in 1863 as a compositor, and by perseverance worked his way up to his present position. Mr. Bond is a prominent Forester. He was a member of the Nelson school committee for nine years, and was twice elected chairman. Mr. Bond takes an active interest in temperance matters.

The “Nelson Evening Mail” was established in 1865 by the late Mr. Robert Lucas, whose sons now carry on the business. Since the first issue of the paper there has been a steady growth and increase, till at present the influence of the journal is exercised throughout the province. The “Mail” is the only daily evening paper published in the district, and it is to be found in every household. It was the first paper in Nelson to reduce the price to a penny per copy, and it continues to be circulated at that cost to the reader. The policy of the “Mail” is to be independent of all political parties, and to criticise all public affairs fearlessly. Its leading articles deal with every current topic of local, colonial and general interest. The paper employs a large staff of workers in its literary and mechanical departments. Modern machinery and type are used, and the aim of the conductors is to furnish subscribers with the latest news, and the fullest information concerning the events of the day all over the world. At the time of the death of Mr. Robert Lucas, in 1876, the business was in the hands of the late Mr. R. S. Lucas, who, seven years later, was joined by his brothers. Mr. R. S. Lucas retired in 1886, and since then, the business has been carried on by Messrs A. P. and A. A. Lucas. During the past forty years the “Mail” has had only three editors. Mr. Blundell, son of Captain Blundell, edited it for twenty-three years, up till 1891; then it was conducted by Mr. J. F. Dundas until December, 1895; and its present editor is Mr. Osmond W. Hanby, formerly of the editorial staff of the “Sydney Daily Telegraph.”

Mr. Robert Lucas was born at Langport, Somersetshire, England, in 1817, and was apprenticed to the printing trade. He was afterwards employed at Mr. Wright's printing office in Bristol, and was subsequently Mr. Wright's manager, and as such, he had frequently to pay visits of inspection to branch establishments throughout England. In 1843, Mr. Lucas joined the Wesleyan Mission at Sierra Leone as assistant missionary, and for some time he managed a small printing office in connection with the mission. He was, however, compelled by ill-hearth to return to England, where he carried on a printing business at Bristol on his own account till 1859, when he emigrated to Nelson. On arrival at Nelson he commenced printing at once, and in 1865, established the “Nelson Evening Mail.” Mr. Lucas was an active member of the Wesleyan Church, and was steward of the circuit for many years. He was a man of genial disposition, and was noted for his liberality in connection with the Church. His death, which occurred in 1876, was deeply regretted.

The Late Mr. R. Lucas.

The Late Mr. R. Lucas.